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Interview with bridal stylist, Jennifer Johnston, of Saks Jandel Bridal

Wit: Let's start at the beginning. When did you begin working in bridal fashion? How did you become interested in bridal fashion?

Jennifer: I became interested in Fashion Design and Merchandising at Meredith College in North Carolina. It progressed to bridal when I met Susan Khalje, and enrolled in her amazing couture sewing class to learn hand sewing techniques, and all the basics of couture sewing and fitting. I was hooked on bridal ever since! I left the sewing world and entered the retail sales world over 20 years ago. When I moved to Washington, D.C. in 1997, I started working at The Vera Wang Bridal Salon at Saks Jandel at The Watergate. I quickly became store manager and loved it so much I stayed 16 years. Recent life changes have allowed me to step down as store manager and work part time in a sales position. Now I get to play dress up every day and spend someone else's money!

Wit: What should a bride first consider when shopping for a wedding dress?

Jennifer: The first thing a bride should consider is how much she wants to spend on her gown. This single piece of information will help you find the most beautiful dress for your price point. Vera Wang starts at $2,990, but can cost as much as $27,000, and that is not for a custom dress. Consider what price range you feel comfortable with and then determine the fabrics and laces you are willing to consider. The price of the gown increases with the different laces, silk fabrics, sewing techniques used to make the gown and the construction of the dress. 

Wit: Accessories can change the entire look of a bridal gown. What are some of your favorite ways you accessorize your brides?

Jennifer: My favorite accessories are veils. I believe that the veil makes the dress real. It signifies a bride no matter what your dress looks like. A simple unadorned gown of organza or satin can looking stunningly beautiful with a veil edged in lace. It will be the only time you will ever wear this accessory! I also love silk fabric flowers, either as part of a sash or attached to the dress. I think they represent the romance and femininity of a bride.

Wit: What fabrics do you recommend for each season?

Jennifer: For the most part, fabrics are seasonless. Year round I would expect to see silk satin faced organza, silk crepe, tulle, and silk faille. As for the most traditional of bridal fabric, Duchesse satin, this is a year round fabric also, however, you will not find many designers using Duchesse satin. The trend has been to use more modern fabrics that hug the body such as stretch mikado and stretch charmeuse. 

Wit: How does a bride's complexion influence gown color choice?

Jennifer: Interestingly enough, Vera designs in ivory. As you may know, she often times presents an entire collection in color. Today, brides can wear any color wedding dress that they find flattering to their complexion, but my preference for most brides is still ivory. The silk fabrics are such a light color ivory that it is flattering for most skin tones.

Wit: What color fabrics look best with pale, olive,and dark skin tones?

Jennifer:  The best color of pale complexions is ivory. This is the same for redheads with a pinkish skin tone, and for blondes. I often like a very light ivory or even a soft white for olive and darker skin tones. The contrast with dark hair and dark eyes is strikingly beautiful. 

Wit: What is your favorite era for bridal fashion?

Jennifer: My favorite era? Hmm... I would have to say my favorite style, since that never really goes out of fashion. I would say the Vera Wang Grace gown from the mid 1990's. Vera created a gorgeous gown of lace and crystal that was reminiscent of Grace Kelly's gown. The color was a pale blush color and it was stunning! I will never forget that dress, the quality of the fabrics, the crystals and the richness of the gown itself. 

Wit: Do you have an all-time favorite bridal collection?

Jennifer: My favorite collection would most likely be the Vera Wang Luxe Collection. The Luxe gowns are mostly lace, which is my favorite bridal fabric of all time. Vera uses the most exquisite laces from France in unique patterns that are not often seen. All of her lace is appliquéd, which means each flower is cut out of the lace fabric and hand applied to another piece of fabric, such as tulle or organza. I think you can imagine the labor involved in such a process!

Wit: Who would you love to style?

Jennifer: This is a difficult question, because I don't follow celebrities and rock stars! If I had to choose a bride that stands out in my mind, I would say Ivanka Trump. I think she looked absolutely gorgeous on her wedding day. Her dress, her makeup, the hair, her eyes all captivated me. I couldn't pick a more perfectly styled bride. 

Gowns by Vera Wang

Photographs of Gowns and Sketch Vera Wang

Bridal Portrait by John Dolan